David Jeremiah - Slaying the Giant of Resentment
Someone has described resentment as the accumulation of unexpressed anger, anger swept under the rug. My friend Gary Ingrid tells a story of a man who was bitten by a dog, which was later discovered to be rabid. The man was rushed to the hospital where tests revealed that he had indeed contracted rabies. At this particular time, medical science had no solution for this problem, and the doctor face the difficult proposition of telling this man of his condition and informing him that what he had was incurable, that it was terminal.
"Sir," he said, "we will do all we can to make you comfortable, but we cannot give you false hope. There's nothing we can really do. My best advice for you is to put your affairs in order as soon as possible". The dying man sank back into his bed in depression and shocked but finally he rallied enough strength to ask for a pen and some paper, and he began to work with great energy. An hour later when the doctor returned, the man was still writing vigorously and the doctor said to him, "Well, I'm glad you've taken my advice. You must be working on your will". "This ain't no will, Doc," he said, "This is a list of people I'm gonna bite before I die". That is indeed what resentment will do to you, it will turn you into an angry, bitter person.
So, let's take a look at this giant and let's see if we can figure out, first of all, who this giant is and then determine a way to do warfare against it. Well, the word is not actually mentioned in the Bible. You won't find "resentment" in your concordances. There is a phrase in one of Paul's letters that is actually very close to the word "resentment" when it is translated in a negative context. And it's strange that this word appears in the love chapter of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13. Paul describes agape love like this, he says, "Love thinks no evil," 1 Corinthians 13:5. And the phrase translated "thinks no evil," or the think part of the phrase is the word "logizomai". It means to calculate or to reckon.
Paul says, "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing trespasses to them, not keeping a record". Aren't you glad that God doesn't keep a record of our sins, that he forgives us and he blots our sins out of the book? And there's no record book in heaven where there is a record of all of our sins if we have trusted him to forgive us. In personal relationships, keeping records is not only unnecessary, it is harmful. Love does not take into an account the wrong that is done against us. Love does not keep a record that does not logizomai the things that are done to hurt us. Love looks for a chance to forgive, not a chance to get even.
Now, you may be surprised to discover that in the Bible, there is a record of someone who resented, and it may surprise you to discover that that someone was King David, the man after God's own heart. When he was dying, King David brought his son Solomon into the room to give him a word. And this is what he said in 1 Kings chapter 2, verses 5 and 6, listen carefully, he's talking to his son now and he says, "Moreover you know also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two commanders of the armies of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed. And he shed the blood of war in peacetime, and put the blood of war on his belt that was around his waist, and on his sandals that were on his feet. Therefore, Solomon, do according to your wisdom, and do not let his gray hair go down to the grave in peace". I don't know if you know what's going on here, but this is really sad.
Here's something that was done to David and his commanders years and years ago, but he stored it up in his mind. He kept track of it all of these years and while he couldn't revenge himself in his own lifetime, he brought his son in and corrupted his mind with this revenge and said, "Whatever you do, don't let that guy die naturally. You take him out for what he did". That is an illustration of the kind of anger that becomes resentment in a person's life. One of the things that people say sometimes as well, "If I want to be bitter, I'm just gonna be bitter. It's nobody's business, but my own. I'll just be bitter". But it never is like that, is it? Bitterness always spreads out to those around the bitter person, and it always defiles the people it touches.
There's no such thing as individual bitterness. If you have any relationships with people at all, your resentment and bitterness is coloring those relationships in a negative way, and research is very clear about the expense of resentment. Experts agree that it is a very high price that a person pays to carry anger and bitterness in their soul.
I have a book by S.I. McMillen, who is a medical doctor called "None of These Diseases". And I have referred to that book often in my study. He says in this book that medical science recognizes that emotions such as fear, and sorrow, and envy, and resentment, and hatred, are responsible for the majority of the sicknesses today, and the estimates of experts range from 60% all the way up to 100%.
In his book, Lewis Meade reviews a play which illustrates the power of resentment like no story I have ever read. Herman Engel was a German general in World War II and was sentenced by the Nuremberg Court to 30 years in prison for atrocities committed by his army. He survived his sentence, and in the play he was released from prison. At the time of the play, he is in Alsace building a cabin in the woods where he and his wife intend to live out their years incognito, forgotten, and at peace. In the story, there's a man by the name of Mario, who is a French journalist, and he's waiting in the wings.
You see, Mario's whole family was massacred by Engel's troops during the war. And when the Nuremberg Court had refused to sentence Engel to death for his war crimes, Mario had sentenced Engel to death in his own heart, and determined to carry out the sentence in his first opportunity. His condemnation was kept alive by the hot fire of hate that he kept kindling in his heart. Now, the time had come into play, Mario had stoked up the fanatics in the village close to Engel's cabin. That very night, they were going to come up the hill, burn down the cabin, and shoot Engel and his wife to death. But there were a couple of things that Mario hadn't quite figured out. There were some empty spaces in his understanding of what had actually happened in the war.
So, as a journalist, he decided to go up the hill to the cabin where Engel and his wife were living and ask them some questions the afternoon before they were gonna be killed. So, up the hill he went, and he introduced himself and told Engel who he was. Engel was quite shaken, and that afternoon Mario spent grilling the former general about all the village massacres that lay like a forgotten shadow in Engel's past. But Engel's feeble humanity confused Mario. He couldn't quite figure out what was going on, and he was having a hard time putting all the pieces of the terrible story together. His hatred and his vengeance began to be blurred, and the purity of his hate was contaminated by what he saw in this old, feeble man.
Toward the end of the afternoon, Mario blurted out to Engel that the villages were going to come that night and kill him. And he offered to lead Engel out of the woods and save his life. Engel paused and he said, "I'll go with you on one condition". And Mario thought, "What is this guy, is he mad? What kind of conditions do you give for being saved from being killed"? "What condition"? he said. And Engel says, "I'll go with you if you will forgive me". Forgive? Mario had exterminated Engel a thousand times in ways of hate that played in his mind for 30 years. Face to face with this man's humanity, Mario was unsettled in his vengeance. He could save the man's life, he would cancel the execution, but forgive him, never. And that night, the enraged villagers came with sacks over their heads, burned the cabin, and shot Engel and his wife dead.
Now, I ask you, why was forgiving even harder than saving Engel's life? And here is the core truth. It was too much for Mario to forgive him because his hatred had become a passion so long indulged in his life that Mario could not live without his hatred. His soul could no longer be the person that he was without his hatred. His hate did not belong to him, he belonged to his hate. And the tragedy was that only forgiveness, the one thing that he could not give to Engel, could set Mario free. But he could not do it because his hate had become who he was. Yes, there's a price to pay for resentment and far too often the bill is not received until emotional bankruptcy has set in.
So, while there is still time, if you harbor resentment against someone, if you're holding a grudge in your heart against a family member, or somebody you work with, maybe somebody in this church, maybe somebody on this staff, if you have in your heart a bitterness and resentment that you have not dealt with, why don't you decide today while there is still time, "By the grace of God, I am going to deal with this resentment before it deals with me". You say, "Pastor Jeremiah, how do we do it? How do we do it"?
Let me just give you some ideas. Idea number one, steps to winning over the giant of resentment. Think it through, think it through. Do you know why most people harbor resentment against others? It's very documented in all of the research that I've done. They do it because it gives them a sense of superiority over the person that they hate. It makes them feel as if they are the decent one being wrongfully treated by an obviously inferior person. They enjoy fantasizing their plots of revenge. They spend their days reviewing what was done to them, retelling the story every time they get a chance. Each time the story is repeated, it is more deeply etched into their mind.
Someone has said that resentment gives us two things, neurotic pleasure and religious pride. Think it through, is this what you were doing? Is it worth it to enjoy this sordid pleasure and risk your own health? And after you think it through, I want you to do something else, I want you to write it down. You say, "What am I supposed to write down"? I want you to write down why you are filled with resentment. Let me tell you what you'll discover. When you write it down on paper and read it out loud, it will sound a lot different than it sounds in the echoes of your mind. You will discover that what you read out loud is not exactly correspondent with what you've been thinking in your mind and dealing with in your heart. You might want to start the little writing experience like this, "I am filled with resentment because", and then write it out. After you think it through and write it down, I want you to work it out.
Now, stay with me here. A man who had been married for 50 years to the same woman was asked the secret of their marital bliss. "Well," he said, "it's kind of like this, when the wife and I got married, we made an agreement that whenever she was bothered about something, she would just tell me off and get it out of our system. And if I ever got mad at her about something, I would take a walk". He said, "I guess you can attribute our marital success to the fact that I have largely led an outdoor life". I'm not suggesting that you can overpower anger with exercise. Please don't think I'm becoming psychological here, but there is some evidence that exercise is helpful in dealing with strong emotions and exercise takes the edge off of anger, and gives it an outlet, and keeps it from building up a backlog of pressure. Just put it in there and think it through.
Number four, you need to talk it over. And I want to tell you who to talk it over with. I don't know your friends. The only one I know that you know is the Lord God himself. So, I'm gonna recommend that you talk it over with him, that you take it to the Lord in prayer. When you consider his grace in your behalf, and you begin to enumerate all the things that God has done in forgiving you, and you take a bath in the grace of God, all of a sudden you begin to have the power inwardly to deal with the resentments that have built up in your heart. You see, we forgive other people with the forgiveness wherewith we ourselves have been forgiven. And then finally, when you've talked it over with the Lord, you give it up. You give it up. You don't hang on to it. You give it up.
Did you know that the only part of the Lord's prayer that is repeated is the part about forgiveness? Did you know that? "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors". And clear at the end as an addendum to the prayer is this statement from Matthew that says, "If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses". Like father like son because God has forgiven us, all of these things that are listed in this verse, when we forgive others who have done those things to us, we demonstrate that we belong to him.
We have the traits of the Father in us, and it's the only way you can explain some of the forgivenesses that I've heard about. People who have been abused, and hurt, and wounded, and sinned against. And yet, when they bathe in the wonderful grace and forgiveness of Almighty God, they find the reservoir of strength that comes from him. And as he, as their Father, has forgiven them, they become like their father as his child and they forgive others. That's how you get rid of resentment. Be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake, has forgiven you. Do you see it?
All of us have read some of the stories about Corrie ten Boom. I was in her homeland several years ago and saw the place where she grew up. I've always been interested in her life. She was a great woman. After she was released from prison where she and her sister had been in Ravensbruck, her sister actually died in that prison. Her father died in another concentration camp. And when she got out of the Nazi prison, she determined that she was gonna travel all over Germany, and that her main mission for the rest of her life was going to be to preach forgiveness because she knew that Germany was filled with many Jewish people who had been so brutally damaged, that they would end up continuing the damage through their own hatred of those who had hurt them.
And so, she went preaching forgiveness everywhere she went, that was her only message. She said that one Sunday morning she was in Munich, and a man came forward to greet her and she recognized him immediately. She remembered how she and the other women prisoners were forced to take showers while this man, who had come up to her after the service, had ogled and taunted her in her naked helplessness. The man standing before her had also taken great joy in his cruelty of Betsy, Corrie ten Boom's sister. He spoke. He said, "Ja Fräulein, it is wonderful that Jesus forgives all our sins, just as you say. You mentioned Ravensbruck, I was a guard there, but since then I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me, but I would like to hear it from you as well. Fräulein, will you forgive me"?
And Corrie said she stood there paralyzed. She couldn't forgive. Betsy had died at the hands of this man. She herself had been humiliated. At the same time, she said, "I was so ashamed that I could preach so fervently about forgiveness, and immediately after my sermon, be confronted with something I couldn't forgive". And so, she said, "I did what only I could ever do in a situation like that". She said, "I looked up to heaven to Almighty God and I said, 'Oh God, forgive me because I can't forgive.'" And she said immediately, she began to feel the sense of God's forgiveness of her. And she said, "I don't even remember how it happened, but I felt my hand go up, to reach out to the hand of this man, and I reached out and shook his hand and I said, You are forgiven". And immediately, the SS general was set free.
And Corrie ten Boom said, "But that's not all. I felt the burden lift off of me and I was set free". God has given to us, my friends, this wonderful privilege of forgiveness. And when we forgive, resentment goes away. And I need to tell you that if you have not ever accepted the forgiveness of Almighty God for your sin, you will have a very difficult time finding, within yourself, the grace to forgive someone else. It's only as we truly understand that we are sinners against Almighty God and that he has, in his grace, reached down through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and given us life everlasting and forgiven us of our sin. As we begin to understand that he has done that for us, then out of that, we can do it for others but it starts, first of all, with accepting his forgiveness for your sin, and asking him to become your Savior.
Now, my friend, if you're in doubt as to whether or not you have offended God, let me just assure you that your unwillingness to let him rule over your life is an affront to him because he created you and he loves you, and he has paid a dear price for you. You know, sometimes I think we don't understand that our active or passive rebellion against God is a great sin in God's eyes. But when we come to him and submit to him and ask God to forgive us, he does it freely, unconditionally, eternally. And then out of that forgiveness, we can deal with the resentments we face in our own lives.